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Journey takes detour

Opening-round hole buries Newport Harbor in 11-7 title-match loss to San Marino Monday.

November 22, 2010|By Matt Szabo, matthew.szabo@latimes.com
  • [Newport Harbor's Natalie Cernius, returns a backhand during the girls' CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs against San Marino at The Claremont Club on Monday, Nov. 22. (Scott Smeltzer)] *** []
[Newport Harbor's Natalie Cernius, returns a backhand… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

CLAREMONT — Coach Kristen Case said this special season for the Newport Harbor High girls' tennis team has been more about the journey than the destination.

Monday's match at the final destination, The Claremont Club, didn't go the way the top-seeded Sailors wanted. They fell to unseeded San Marino, 11-7, in the CIF Southern Section Division II championship match.

The tears in the eyes of the players at the end were strictly because that journey was over.

"I feel like we've all grown such strong bonds," said senior Lauren Conway, one of three senior starters along with the doubles team of Riley Mathies and Alex Aiello. "Riley and Alex, I've been on the team with them since I was a freshman. We've all been through a lot. I feel like I'm more upset that I'm leaving all these girls than [upset] that we lost, to be honest with you. I'm upset because we won't be coming to practice everyday and seeing each other. We wanted to end it on a high note, but I feel like getting to the finals is a pretty big accomplishment. I feel like we represented our school well, so I'm happy."

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Newport Harbor (21-3), which had a 14-match winning streak snapped, became the latest of six Sailors girls' tennis teams to lose a section final. The Sailors, who were making their first final appearance since 2001, have never won a CIF team title.

The Sailors went into the match strong in doubles, sweeping in two of their last three playoff matches. San Marino (17-1) was strong in singles, as sophomore Dorothy Tang and junior Sarah Gealer are each ranked in Southern California. Tang is ranked No. 18 in the girls' 18s, and Gealer is No. 20 in the 16s.

But the Titans flipped the script in the first round, winning a pair of doubles matches.

They had a 3-1 lead with two doubles matches still on. After the San Marino sister combo of senior Tammy and freshman Vivian Le topped Newport Harbor's Ricki Archie and Christina Young, 6-4, eyes turned to the final doubles court at the far west end.

Aiello and Mathies had stormed back from a 5-1 deficit to force a tiebreaker against San Marino's other sister doubles combo, junior Michelle and sophomore Monique Gandawidjaja.

But the Gandawidjaja sisters won the first three points of the tiebreaker and went on to take it, 7-2, leaving San Marino with a surprising 5-1 sets lead after the first go-round. It was the first time all year Newport Harbor had faced such a big deficit after the opening round.

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